To any parent going through the intense struggle that is colic, I commend you. You’re earning some serious Parent Stripes. It is HARD. It feels hopeless at times, and it can make you feel like a failure, but trust me, you are not alone, and THIS TOO SHALL PASS.
Let’s quickly go over the definition of colic:
- Inconsolable periods of loud, healthy, crying lasting anywhere from minutes to hours
- The crying begins at predictable times, usually late afternoon, or night
- A little one who appears tense during these crying fits, either with clenched fists, tight tummies, or a generally-pained appearance.
And the most frustrating thing about this? Doctors still don’t know why it happens. That is why you should not feel like a failure, right there. There are people who dedicate their lives to studying babies and their health. They use boatloads of money and tons of studies, and there still is no answer as to why this happens.
The theories range from more slowly developing digestive systems, intolerance to milk or foods in mother’s breast milk, to babies picking up on mommy or daddy’s tension, and even plain old temperament. Let me tell you why I am writing this really quickly:
Our first was a sweet little baby boy, and he was completely normal during the day, leading to people thinking I was crazy when I told them what happened at night. Right around 9:00 pm, the crying started, and it lasted until 4:00 or 5:00 am… every… single… night. Seriously, my husband and I still talk about that period of our lives and how nobody would possibly believe it unless they had been through it. It left me very depressed due to the massive postpartum hormone drop and eye-blurring exhaustion, and my poor husband did all he could, but he had a long commute so he needed sleep so he had to sleep in a separate room. It was brutal.
But lo and behold, the blessed 6-month mark came around and we figured some things out, and VIOLA! Our baby slept for 12 hours, every, single, night. He is now three-years-old and wakes up due to nightmares occasionally, but it is 100,000,000 times easier, THANK GOD! And our second baby loves to sleep, so just because one baby is colicky, it does not mean your next will be.
Here are the things we learned in those brutal 6-months:
- Sound Machines: My brother and sister-in-law suggested this, and it really helped! There are so many options for sound machines on the market, but the easiest one to usea you already have: your phone! There is a whole market for sound machine apps that give your voice a rest from constant humming and shushing. Our favorite is Relax Melodies by Ipnos Soft. It is available for iPhones and Androids, and it is full of sounds that you can layer to tailor it to your baby’s specific taste.
- Gripe Water: It has been around forever because it is very helpful! It is an herbal supplement that helps with stomach discomfort, and it is widely available. We tried using the dropper, but it was hard to tell what he was actually drinking or spitting out. We began taking a nipple from a bottle and putting the grip water right into it while he sucked, that way we could see what he got, and made sure to pull it out of his mouth to be sure he got no air.
- Warm Baths: While this didn’t help us, it may help someone out there reading this. We tried a warm bath per the doctor’s suggestion nightly and then I walked around shushing in a heartbeat rhythm, for many this works, even though it didn’t for us.
- Baby swaddling: Swaddling your little one may look uncomfortable, but it reminds them of being in the womb, and it can make them a little more peaceful.
- Massage: You can also massage their little tummies in a gentle clockwise circle to help ease gassiness. You can also use a warm towel from his bath water on his tummy to try to soothe him.
Diet changes: If you are breastfeeding, there are gas inducing foods you can avoid to see if it helps your little one, like garlic, onions, cauliflower, beans, and broccoli. If it makes you toot, chances are your little one gets tooty too. And if he is on formula, try a different brand, sometimes it is the slightest change that can make a huge difference.
- A bouncer: This one is more to give you the parents, a break. There were nights I was so exhausted that I let him hang out in his bouncer listening to baby music or watching baby TV because I just had nothing left, and I found that he began to fall asleep very quickly while he was in there… that is when the light bulb started! When I was more relaxed, so was he, it really worked for us.
- Double Socks: Okay, I know this sounds odd, but hey, give it a shot. We always had our baby’s feet covered, but if he had his feet double covered, it seemed to help for some reason.
- Lavender oil: I knew lavender soothed me, so I started putting a drop of lavender on my shirt in a place that wouldn’t touch his skin (i.e. the back of my shirt) when the 9:00 hour approached. I don’t know if it soothed me which made him calmer, or if it helped him directly, but it did seem to help us. It is a soothing, sleep-inducing scent, but I would use it very sparingly.
- Car rides: There was one night right around Christmas that we started driving in a parking lot at 3 am just trying to calm our little guy down. Don’t attempt this unless you have a well-rested driver (like a husband or mom) and are in a safe area.
- Rocking: My mom is a baby-whisperer. So is my mother-in-law. And they both had this down to an art. They held him upright and close to their chest, and shushed as they rocked. He quieted down with them every now and then. Sometimes it didn’t work, but those times it did were wonderful, and it worked when I finally got the same slow and steady rhythm down too.
- Rice Cereal: I know we are told that we are supposed to wait until 6 months to start solids, but when we started rice cereal, just a teensy bit at night, he started to sleep much much better. As always, follow your doctor’s advice and your gut, but for us, rice cereal was a God-send.
- Prayer: I know it doesn’t sound related, but this was my biggest helper through the entire ordeal. Envisioning Mary trying to calm Jesus, and asking her to pray with me for God to help me through the hard parts of motherhood brought me calm. When I was calmer, so was our little guy, so how ever you feel most comfortable praying or meditating, use that tool right when you are most stressed, and I promise you’ll get some help.
As always, use common sense and consult with your doctor before using any advice you find here or anywhere else when caring for your little one to be sure it is right for your specific situation.
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Good luck to you, you hard-working parents. These are just our experiences and I am no expert, but I hope my experiences help someone out there. Please let me know if any of these things are helpful for you by leaving a comment.